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Mansfield Park Theme of Love

Despite some characters' efforts, love is not logical, predictable, or even controllable. In Mansfield Park, characters constantly fall in love with people they'd rather not love. They fall for people who don't love them back, they try to love people whom they can't, and they try to fall out of love with people and fail. Love is very messy and very confusing here. It challenges characters' attitudes and preconceptions. But there is an exception to all this drama. Fanny experiences love as practically predictable. Her love for Edmund doesn't make her change; rather it reaffirms who she is. It's questionable as to whether or not love is preferable at its messiest or at its safest.

Questions About Love

  1. Love in Mansfield Park is definitely not logical or even reasonable. But some couples in the book are more mystifying than others. Are there any couples, or even crushes and one-way attractions, that you find unbelievable? If so, what's the effect of these questionable pairs on the narrative? Are these confusing romances thematically important in any way?
  2. Do Mary and Edmund prove the old adage "opposite attract," or do the two actually have a lot in common?
  3. The narrator tells us that, while Fanny knows her own meaning, she has limited awareness of her own manner and what she's projecting to other people. If this is the case, then how was Fanny able to get through the whole book with no one suspecting that she loved Edmund? Was Fanny really good at hiding it, or did other characters just assume things about Fanny and not notice? Do you think some characters might have known she loved Edmund?
  4. Do you think Henry genuinely loves Fanny? Was he ever in love with Maria?
  5. If Henry hadn't run off with Maria, would Fanny have eventually learned to love him?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Edmund's romance with Fanny is inevitable given Fanny's status as a protagonist; she has to get what she wants in the end.

If Fanny had taken the chance, she actually could have fallen in love with Henry and could have been happy with him.

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